Curios of the week #11
Clippings, endnotes and other ephemera
I have been a little under the weather this week, so I have not gone out much. Instead, it’s been a little like old COVID times, sitting on my computer at home, trying to contribute to meetings via Zoom. I am better now, so I am back on form.
This week, I wrote about a new review article that I did not like very much and the PIRLS results, the big news of the week that, as far as I am concerned, is very good news indeed. But you already know about that.
PIRLS will also feature in this week’s curios, along with a Twitter fight, some learning loss research, a bit of good manners, cheese and much more.
New/old (controversial) voice of the week
Bjorn Lomborg, the controversial ‘skeptical environmentalist’ has turned his attention to education. Writing in The Australian, Lomborg suggests, rightly, that spending more money on education is flawed if that money is not spent on the right things. He gives the example of policies in the early 2000s that threw laptops and other devices at schoolchildren in the hope that, in some way, this would achieve something.
So what does Lomborg propose instead? He discusses a peer-reviewed paper but doesn’t provide the link so I will comment on what he writes in the article. His first idea is to use tablets to deliver smart tutoring to individual students for about one hour per day. I am, to borrow a term, skeptical about this. There’s a better theory behind it than the laptop throwing initiative, but otherwise, both approaches seem similar. How will we ensure students’ attention? What about when all the tablets break? Is the software up to the job? I am not sure.
I raise my eyebrows further at the suggestion that, “After just one year, testing shows the student has learned what would normally have taken three full years.” That sounds like an effect size of about d=1.2. Hmmm…
Lomborg’s second big idea is, ‘structured pedagogy’.
“A trial in Kenya was so successful that the approach was adopted for the whole country. With a full year of semi-structured teaching plans, coaching and encouraging text messages. the project helps teachers provide more engaging and useful instruction. Studies show this delivers learning that is equivalent to almost one extra year of schooling.”
This seems more plausible. I may be suffering from a little confirmation bias because I am a big fan of giving teachers lesson plans.
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